6×12 isn’t exactly a format you come across very often; it’s wide, but not so wide you’d call it panoramic, to put it into perspective, an Xpan has an aspect ratio of 2.4:1, 6×12 is 2:1. Still, to me, 6×12 is the perfect aspect ratio for landscapes.
Producing 6 shots from a roll of 120 film, the 6×12 format is not exactly economical as 120 cameras go, but when you consider that the 6×12 is meant for 4×5 cameras it is a very economical way to shoot, in fact the cheapest way to shoot on a 4×5 camera.
There are a few options out there for 6×12 film backs, I’ve been shooting the Alvandi 6×12 for over a year now and I love it.
It’s a great large format accessory and a substantially cheaper and more versatile way to shoot landscape photos than an XPan. Made by Mr. Alvandi in Iran, these backs aren’t something you see every day and they’re definitely worth checking out.
Compatibility and use
If you’re used to using a 4×5 camera the Alvandi 6×12 is a breeze to use. The biggest adjustment is ‘seeing’ in 6×12, it is quite different from a standard frame size, additionally when composing on the ground glass knowing where the edge of the frame is can be tricky, fortunately, a lot of cameras will have 6×9 and 6×12 grid lines on the ground glass which makes composing easier.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of it however it really lends itself to landscape scenes. Shooting it is easy, just compose on the ground glass, focus as normal, then attach the back and shoot, there’s no need to refocus or compensate.
The back fits on any 4×5 camera with a Graflok back. Simply compose and focus as normal (left, below), when ready to take your shot, remove the ground glass (center, below), attach the 6×12 back and shoot (right, below). There is no need to adjust or re-focus.
The main thing that springs to mind is Built.Like.A.Tank! The entire body is CNC’d aluminum, the feel is fantastic, everything just works and works well.
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Compared to the Horseman 6×12
The Alvandi 6×12 costs $545 on lfcamerastore.com which is cheaper than a Horseman 6×12 will cost secondhand, but how does it compare to the horseman?
Both are well made, but the Alvandi is SOLID, no plastic parts or cheap materials, additionally with no gears or levers there’s nothing to break on the Alvandi, just wind to the number and go.
Loading is a little fiddly with the Alvandi, firstly you need to unclip the two parts from one another, then much like an old 120 camera you need to move the old spool to the pick-up side and load the new spool, then pull the backing paper across the pressure plate to the old spool. Once that’s done you manually wind the film to #2 as per the instruction on the back.
Loading is a touch easier on the Horseman, you just open the back, load your film, crank the winding lever and shoot. It’s a process very similar to loading a modern 120 camera or even a 35mm camera. However, having said that, with no new Horseman backs available and the ones on the secondhand market aging, this convenience may prove problematic as parts begin to break.
Example shots with the the Alvandi 6×12
I personally love the 6×12 aspect ratio, and as someone who primarily shoots landscapes, I feel like the panoramic look works very well with my work. Aside from that, it’s the cheapest way to shoot 4×5, which matters with the ever-increasing price of film, and the cost of developing and scanning 4×5 film.
If you’re looking for something a bit different and want to expand your creative horizons I definitely think the Alvandi 6×12 deserves a place in your gear bag.
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